When Matthew Charles, whose supporters include President Trump and reality TV star Kim Kardashian-West, was released from prison in January, his applications for apartments in Nashville were repeatedly denied because he had spent two decades behind bars. Thousands of ex-Tennessee prisoners each year face nearly insurmountable odds to find a secure, affordable place to live, The Tennessean reports. Their complicated individual life stories may be boiled down to a lack of credit or a criminal rap sheet, sometimes decades old. A formerly incarcerated person is nearly ten times more likely to experience homelessness than someone without a criminal history, say data from the National Former Prisoner Survey.
“After you’ve been incarcerated, if you don’t have a parent or family member to stay with, then your other options are to go to a homeless shelter or to just stay out on the streets,” Charles said. “You can try to find a boarding house but most of them are already crowded based on people having mental illnesses or addictions.” In 2016, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development told property managers to consider each application on an individual basis because former African-American inmates are more likely to be denied homes. Last week, Charles signed a lease on a home after staying on a friend’s couch for months. “This is an overwhelmingly prevalent issue,” said Bettie Kirkland of Project Return, which helps former prisoners re-enter society. “The issue of housing a person (who has been incarcerated) trying to get an apartment is a daily issue that we see.” A small group of landlords is working with Project Return to help house former inmates. It’s not nearly enough to meet demand. The organization is buying homes for former prisoners to rent.